Romance Sidequest

"I love it when women fight over me..."

An optional Romance Arc sidequest in many Role Playing Games wherein the Player Character enters a romantic relationship with an NPC (usually, but not always, one of their party members). Sometimes it's a full-blown quest, sometimes just a series of dialogues with the NPC. Sometimes you can screw everything up with wrong dialogue decisions, sometimes you can't. May or may not involve sex upon completion. The term "Romance Sidequest" is more often used in reference to Western RPGs, whereas the term "Dating Sim Elements" would more often be used in reference to Eastern RPGs.

In the earliest examples, the number of female love interests was often higher than that of male ones, likely because Most Gamers Are Male, but the most recent trends gravitate toward gender parity. Also, most romance sidequests in older games were heterosexual, to avoid offending Moral Guardians, and, again, because most gamers (and writers) are (heterosexual) males. This, too, has been on decline in recent games and a Gay Option is often included nowadays (sometimes to the point of Everyone Is Bi). Romancing multiple characters at once is usually impossible, except on the early stages, after which you "must make a decision".

In contrast to Western RPGs, their Japanese counterparts usually tend to integrate the romance into the main story rather than move it to sidequests. Some, with their love for linearity, tend to pair The Hero up with one specific girl in the course of the story, into which this sub-plot is rigidly integrated. Others tend to incorporate a Relationship Values system to determine which character has a romantic relationship with who. The Japanese are also responsible for inventing the genre of games that consist entirely of romance sidequests: Dating Sim (incidentally, some gamers slap this genre label onto any game that includes romance with NPCs).

Related tropes are Relationship Values that are sometimes interchangeable with (or a prerequisite to) a Romance Sidequest and Optional Sexual Encounter which this sidequest can but might not culminate in. If the PC's chosen love interest has a specific role in the story outside of the romance subplot, it may overlap with Static Role, Exchangeable Character. Also related is the Match Maker Quest, when the PC does this for out of party NPCs.


Examples:

Adventure Game
  • The PC game Secrets of da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript gives the player the option of how far to take the romance sidequest. It's only necessary to charm the female character enough that she'll let you enter her rooms to see the da Vinci artifacts kept there. However, pouring on the maximum charm will get her to invite the player character to share her bed for a night; if that happens, the ending implies that she has fallen in love with him.
  • In Quest for Glory V, the main character has the opportunity to woo and get engaged to one of the four women he encountered during the previous four games.
  • A minor case in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. One of the girls in the bazaar will develop feelings for Link, if you play your cards right. It's your choice whether to reject her or not.

BioWare

BioWare is undoubtedly the Trope Codifier among Western RPGs. As far as Western RPGs are concerned, this trope is found mostly either in their own games, or games influenced by them.

  • Bioware's first attempt at romance was in Tales of the Sword Coast, the expansion to the original Baldur's Gate. In the village on Balduran's Island there is a character of the opposite gender of your PC (Delainy if you're male, Durlyle if you're female) who will express interest in you. If you respond with flirty remarks, you are eventually given a quest. Upon completing their quest you receive a flower and a kiss as thanks, and they will later help you escape when you discover the dark secret of their village.
    • While the original base game featured no romance, the Updated Re-release Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition allows you to develop a romance with any of the three new party members: Neera for males, Rasaad for females, and Dorn for either. Its inclusion is quite a testament how synonymous romance has become with Bioware's games.
  • Baldur's Gate II is the Trope Codifier and gives us Aerie, Jaheira, and Viconia if the PC is male and Anomen if female. Haer'Dalis and Valygar were also planned as potential love interests for females but they were cut due to time constraints, though light Ship Tease remains. The romance will develop slowly throughout the game and can be continued into the expansion pack Throne of Bhaal. it is initially possible to maintain several romances simultaneously but eventually the involved paramours will force you to choose one of them, which will cause the rejected love interest to leave the party permanently, taking all their gear with them.
    • Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition allows you to continue any romance established in the original Echanced Edition, as well as a new potential love interest for females in the form of lesbian vampire Hexxat.
  • Neverwinter Nights continued to feature romance, but downplayed it at the request of the publisher, who thought romance wouldn't appeal to their intended teenage male demographic. This time the available love interests were the main quest-giving NPCs rather than party members: Lady Aribeth de Tylmarande for males, and spymaster Aarin Gend for females, though your character needed average or better Charisma in addition to the right gender. Romancing Aribeth won't prevent her Face-Heel Turn. But it guarantees that she'll take her last second chance.
    • The second expansion Hordes of the Underdark, following an entirely separate but related story with a new protagonistnote , allows the player character to romance the Drow assassin Nathyrra or Aribeth again (her ghost, anyway (don't ask)) if male or the tiefling Valen Shadowbreath if female (though none of those characters appear until about a third of the way through and you don't encounter Aribeth until the beginning of the third chapter). A tricky player can even end up with both Nathyrra and Aribeth.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has Bastila for male PCs and Carth for female, as well as a hidden (and very abbreviated) "plot" with Juhani for females. The sequel doubles the number of love interests (Visas, Handmaiden, Atton, Disciple) but downplays the "romance" part a great deal, instead opting for Relationship Values: in the final cut, there's not even so much as a kiss there. In the cut ending, the romances were supposed to play a greater role (such as making your chosen love interest sacrifice themselves for you or two love interests fighting to death over Exile).
  • Jade Empire has three potential love interests: childhood friend Dawn Star, Rebellious Princess Silk Fox and Gentleman Rogue Sky. While Dawn Star is only available for male characters (though female characters can still have a sismance with her), Silk Fox and Sky are available for both genders and a male character can even potentially end up with both Dawn Star and Silk Fox. In order to have a same-sex relationship though, you first have to make it absolutely clear to the heterosexual options that you are not interested (which pretty much means you have to insult them). If you have successfully built up approval with your love interest, you are treated to a Big Damn Kiss right before the endgame kicks in. The same-sex versions of the kiss are censored though.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 (developed by Obsidian Entertainment but supervised by Bioware) has two possible romance options: The female druid Elanee for male player characters, and the male paladin Casavir for female player characters. Two additional romantic options were also planned: The female tiefling rogue Neeshka for males, and the male ranger Bishop for females. Both of the latter two's romance ended up half-implemented but was Left Hanging without any real resolution due to Executive Meddling.
  • Mass Effect 1 has Ashley for male PCs, Kaidan for female PCs, and Liara for either. The latter became (in)famous for attracting attention of every Media Watchdog out there because not only does she effectively introduce a lesbian subplot (technically she's from a One-Gender Race, but who are we kidding) but she is also an alien, to boot. That the Romance Sidequest includes a (non-explicit) sex scene didn't help matters either.
    • Mass Effect 2 takes it Up to Eleven: MaleShep can choose among Miranda, Jack, and Tali; FemShep is offered Jacob, Thane, and Garrus; both can go for a (female) omnisexual Kelly Chambers, Samara (if Paragon), and Morinth (though that would be greatly inadvisable), though the last three don't net you the Paramour achievement. All permanent squad members require completing their Loyalty Mission before romance is unlocked. In addition to the new romances, there are three that can carry over from the first game if you pursued them and the game registers whether you stay true to them: Ashley or Kaidan, with whom you only get a single dialogue in the game, and Liara, the only old flame with whom romance can be consummated, if only at the end of the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC storyline.
    • Mass Effect 3 lets you continue most of the romances from the previous two games, adds three new romances among the Normandy staff (two exclusively same-sex, one bi) and allows male Shepards to romance Kaidan.
  • In Sonic Chronicles you could enter a romantic subplot with Amy Rose.
  • A staple in the Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, there are four romance options among the recruitable NPCs: Alistair, Morrigan, Zevran, and Leliana, one each heterosexual male, heterosexual female, bisexual male, and bisexual female. So that's three out of four options (two of the opposite gender and one of the same) no matter what gender your character is. And as if this wasn't enough, there are several minor NPCs in the game that you can unlock one-night stands with (but only one if you're female—this is made up for the fact that every single Origin has a romantic interest; also, Bann Teagan). And as if that wasn't enough, one of the visitable locations in the capital city is a whorehouse, and yes, you can sample the wares this time. As if to influence you to knock up everyone, you can get an achievement for being a part of every possible romance account-wise.
    • Dragon Age II follows the suit with Isabela (the bisexual pirate captain you could bed in the first game), Merrill (a temporary companion from the Dalish Origin), Anders (a possible party member from Awakening), Fenris, and the DLC-only Sebastian. However, it then tops Origins by making ALL of them bisexual (except Sebastian, who is also celibate). The romances can even take different paths depending on whether or not the romance is with a friend or a rival. A romance with a friend is fairly standard material. A romance with a rival is fraught with Belligerent Sexual Tension and Foe Yay.
    • The trend continues in Dragon Age: Inquisition, with more potential love interests than any game in the series had thus far, with at least one male and one female character who can be romance by just same-sex, just opposite-sex and either. In fact there were so many romantic scenes that some races had to be restricted from certain romances because it would took long to programme all the variations.

Role-Playing Game
  • The Ur Example is possibly Dragon Knight, a series of RPG H-Games that featured many romance quests that usually involved graphically explicit Hentai Sexual Encounters.
  • The Trope Maker is probably the Gold Box game Treasures of the Savage Frontier.
  • There is brief romance with Annah in Planescape: Torment. Though the only tail you get is the one she wraps around your leg, all too briefly, while you make out. Grace, on the other hand, doesn't give or get even that much...what with being a succubus.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, there is a moderate amount of nonlinearity in regards of Cloud's love life: depending on how well the player treats Tifa, Aeris, and Yuffie at the early stages, Cloud gets a date with one of them at one point. If he doesn't treat any of them well, he gets a "date" with the Scary Black Man Barret.
    • To a degree, this is also present in X as well. The Tidus/Yuna relationship is still central to the plot and two major cutscenes revolve around them, but by treating Lulu or Rikku well, Tidus can also develop a quasi-romantic relationship with either of them, to the point that Tidus' final overdrive where a character helps can feature any of the women, depending on who Tidus has the most affection levels with. Word of God confirms that different ending sequences if Tidus had preferred either character over Yuna were intended, but there was insufficient room on the disc for them.
      • This one is more of a friendly relationship though, as he can build relationships and alter certain cutsences. The Snowmobile to Macalrina Temple comes to mind. Depending on the players relationship with the party members, Tidus can ride with Lulu or Rikku, or the two will ride together and Tidus will drive next to Auron or Kimhari. A conversation will ensue that reveals tidbits about the character he's with.
  • Contact lets the main character, Terry, woo four girls in the game, culminating in them living in the ship with him. Oddly, already having one girl does not mean another girl can not come. You can even have all four living with you at once, with no repercussions.
  • Tales of Symphonia allowed the player (via Lloyd) to pair off with any of the eight other party members. Only the female options were meant to be romantic, although there were some very strange vibes between Zelos and Lloyd.
  • Arcanum, aside from the potential for paid sex and a few brief flings, had one potential romance, with an Elven Princess. She was a bit finicky (though somehow fell for an Escaped Lunatic,) requiring near maximum intelligence, highly good alignment, and at least average beauty. Courting her simply amounts to asking her opinion about various places in the world, and give flirty answers when she starts to appear twitter-pated. And avoid the obviously bone-headed comments.
  • When The Witcher went for the mature-rating with their plot, content and dialogue, they figured they could throw in a whole pile of Optional Sexual Encounters (which makes sense, since Geralt screwed like a rabbit in the books). Most of them are just one-night stands but two (the medic Shani and the sorceress Triss) are solid romance arcs, complete with detailed dialogue trees and fairly intricate courtship, even by the usual standards. While the actual 'scene' is obfuscated in the usual way, you get a pretty explicit picture at the end of it.
    • Averted in the sequel, where Triss is established as Geralt's love interest. However, there are still sexual encounters, which are much more graphic than the previous game.
  • Divine Divinity, an action-RPG in the mold of Diablo (but with more traditional fantasy trappings and a dash more humor) features an incredibly awkward and absurdly shallow "romance" with an elf of the opposite gender as yourself. Allegedly, this was inspired by Baldur's Gate II and the apparent elf-chick fetish on the part of whomever wrote the romance subplots for that game, and a jab in general at RPGs with shoehorned romance quests.
    • To elaborate on how absurd the whole thing play out: First, the dialogue with her/him indicate that you're hopelessly smitten by first sight, and reads very over-the-top-poetry-written-by-teenager. Their response comes off as politely embarrassed and trying to get you to go away. They won't take it any further until the situation with the elf-dwarf war is dealt with. After that, they send you their father, who only agrees if you find their family heirloom... which doesn't actually exist in the game. So instead you find a dwarven jeweller and get a forgery. After that, they literally have no option but to accept you, and you can get your reward... a kiss. That's right, in order to get smoochies from a perfect stranger, whom regards you as a borderline stalker, you only have to employ deception of the basest sort and insult their family honor behind their backs. True love, ladies and gentlemen.
  • The various Star Ocean games are well known for this, as the endpoint of their Relationship Values mechanic; it doesn't affect gameplay strongly, but the choices you make in "Private Actions" throughout the game (either within storyline cutscenes or in special scenes focused entirely on the task) allow you to eventually choose which of the game's Multiple Endings you get. Star Ocean: The Second Story allowed you to pair up every character in your party, although most of the same-sex pair-ups were of a "Just Friends" nature, while Star Ocean: Till the End of Time only allowed it for the main character.
  • Radiant Historia has a short one that triggers after making three specific decisions across two different timelines, during which Raynie will confess her feelings for Stocke. This sidequest is mandatory if you want the best ending. This sidequest is also a Guide Dang It, because all three dialog options required...are combat related.
  • Alpha Protocol allows Mike to build up a potential romance with any of four female characters - Mina, Scarlett, Madison, and SIE. He can also bed all four of them in a single playthrough, earning an achievement and a perk. And no, unfortunately, he can't romance Sis.
  • Ar tonelico allows you to dive into the female protagonists' psyche and complete various tasks. After you reach the deepest level, you get a marriage scene. And a very powerful wedding dress for the heroine to equip. It's that kind of game.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, there is an exclusive quest chain available for male characters where you can enter a romance with a Khajiit thief named Ahnassi, doing favours for her and receiving gifts in return. At the end of the chain, she will give you the key to her house and ask you to move in with her. There is no corresponding quest for female characters, the closest equivalent to one for them is the Dunmer gentleman bandit Nels Llendo encountered on the road. Rather than try to rob you as he would a male character, he will instead be quite smitten by a female PC and will let you pass without a fight, and will also politely ask for a kiss which you can choose to accept or not.
  • There is a quest in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim called "The Bonds of Matrimony" that involves arranging and attending your wedding ceremony after proposing to an eligible NPC. Getting a character interested in you simply require you to wear an Amulet of Mara while talking with characters that have a positive opinion of you (usually involving doing a quest for them).
  • In some of the Fire Emblem games, achieving the highest level Support (either A or S depending on the game) between two opposite-gendered characters will often, but not always, result in the two characters falling in love during the events of the game, which leads to them marrying each other (and usually having at least one child together) in the game's epilogue. There is also the occasional, arguable Gay Option where the two live and/or travel together.
    • Fire Emblem Awakening features a literal and interesting variation of this: If any opposite-gendered characters in your army reach an S level Support, you will unlock a sidequest chapter in which the couple's Kid from the Future child joins your army. Not only can they marry any eligible character, they all get unique Dating Sim style "confession" scenes when paired with your Avatar.
  • Both Persona 3 and Persona 4 have several romantic options to choose from. In the original release of P3, Social Links with female characters are romantic by default, requiring the protagonist to get around quite a bit in order to max out all S.Links and obtain the most powerful Personas of each Arcana. P4 and the female protagonist route added to P3 give the player the choice of whether to pursue romance with S.Links of the opposite sex or not.
  • Fallout 2 featured an Optional Sexual Encounter with a Farmer's Daughter (or son) that led immediately to a Shotgun Wedding. The new spouse spends the rest of their usually short life trailing after the hero.
  • A Dance with Rogues has five romanceable NPCs, though only Pia's romance can be initiated in Part I. The four guys (Vico, Anden, Bran, and Rizzen) can only be romanced (and two of them, in fact, first appear) in Part II.
  • Winter Wolves' games, such as Planet Stronghold and Loren: The Amazon Princess, always include several of these. Like the Persona series, it's largely an outgrowth of the company's background in visual novels.

Simulation Game
  • Harvest Moon has the Dating Sim element as a hallmark of the game. Competing with rivals to marry eligible NPCs changes the math on a simulation that is otherwise about making virtual money at your virtual job on a virtual farm.
    • In fact, 100% Completion (self-designated, open-ended games) usually involves marrying a secret option.
    • Many players do, in fact, 'level up' their relationships with all potentials because it carries certain benefits to do so. The end result of the choice, however, does not usually change gameplay significantly.
      • Certain games do react to this. The original allowed you to get a special womanizer themed ending if you wooed all the girls without marrying, and the boy option Wonderful Life games give you a "What the Hell, Hero?" type scene.
    • Also, since there are in fact rivals, many players take it upon themselves to initiate those events as a Match Maker Quest. These virtual people are, after all, apparently close virtual friends and deserve virtual happiness.
  • Rune Factory, being Harvest Moon with action and dungeon crawling, doesn't skimp on the bachelorettes.

Wide Open Sandbox
  • Saints Row IV parodies the concept in general and Mass Effect in particular. The NPCs on your ship all have a Romance [Name] option when you're near them. The result is... not quite as drawn-out as in the BioWare games.
    Boss: "Hey Kinzie, wanna fuck?"
    Kinzie: "Let's go!" *punches the PC and jumps on them*